It has been said, more than once and for many years, that in many ways, despite being a major part of or planet, the oceans are still as unknown and as unexplored as space even with major advancements in water robotics.

In fact, in some ways, we know more about space than the depths of the ocean. Why? We have the will and therefore the vehicles to get there. The drive to get into space generally stronger and better funded than ocean exploration in years before.

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Possibly because, it seems, and is, farther away. More foreign. At least in terms of general distance. The oceans on the other hand, are right here and, in an odd way, may seem just a bit too easy for adventurous, science minded types who are looking for a challenge.

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This is, of course, so much silliness and the oceans, particularly in the deep dark sectors is as interesting, foreign and dangerous as the stars. Which, when thinks about it, are mirror images of each other.

Difficulties of exploring the sea, even with water robotics

Equal but opposite ends with the dirt part of the planet caught in the middle. Alas the ones who have tended to notice this have tended to be novelists such as Jules Verne and Moby Dick creator Herman Melville.

This is in no way to diminish the efforts and sacrifices of Marine Biologists and explorers, but it must be admitted that they have generally been less funded, less respected and less covered that the scientists, engineers and so forth studying and going to space. Gladly this seems to be, slowly, changing.

The most recent proof of this shift in both culture and priority in water robotics is a newly developed undersea rover that will allow researchers to go deeper than they have before, marine research for the most part being done from the surface, or with limited depth, the whole oxygen issue being a factor for undersea exploration as well.

Advances in travel

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As with space, to get down to the ocean’s unexplored and totally neat depths, a new generation of underwater exploration device is required. Engineers are now developing a new generation of deep sea vehicle that is a hybrid of a robot and a sub-mariner vehicle.

One such device in water robotics is the  Nereus. Putting options near the top on the list of priorities, the Nereus can be operated either remotely or by an onboard, artificial intelligence, similar to a self-thinking drone. A bit scary in some ways but pretty neat in others.

It is the destination

The first place punched into the equivalent of the Nerus’s GPS was the Challenger Deep. While it sounds like a 1990s hacker handle, the Challenger Deep is actually a bit of the Mariana Trench, the longest bit in fact.

What is the Mariana Trench you ask (I certainly did), it is a section of the deep, deep sea that goes down further than Mount Everest goes up. Sadly, this only lets researchers see what the device can see through its sensors.

A fairly limited view to be sure. To compensate for this, scientists have been developing a cluster of sensors that can get the measurements a vehicle mounted camera cannot.

 

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Trevor McNeil spent much of his childhood playing video-games on early-form personal computers back when the disks were literally floppy. He attended the University of Victoria, completing a degree in Social Science with a concentration in Technology In Society, while also writing for the campus newspaper. He has written articles for such diverse publications as Humanity Death Watch, PopMatters and Perfect Sound Forever. He is a veteran of numerous “watershed moments” in the history of technological development and firmly believes that Han shot first.